SINGAPORE: The Government will set aside S$800 million for the COVID-19 Support Grant, on top of its previous commitment, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in Parliament on Tuesday (May 26).
The grant covers those who have lost their jobs, are placed on no-pay leave, or will see salaries significantly reduced in the coming months due to COVID-19, Mr Heng said.
READ: S$33b Fortitude Budget aimed at providing jobs, supporting workers and firms through 'difficult period' of COVID-19
READ: Fortitude Budget: S$2.9b to improve and extend Jobs Support Scheme; S$2b to help SMEs with rental costs
Authorities said in March that under the scheme, eligible Singaporeans may receive S$800 a month for three months if they also commit to receiving employment and training support from the Workforce Singapore and Employment and Employability Institute.
“In the three weeks after the COVID-19 Support Grant started, we received about 48,000 applications. We are committed to providing help to those who have been badly affected,” Mr Heng said.
As part of the S$33 billion Fortitude Budget, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, also announced a one-off S$100 utilities credit for each household with at least one Singapore citizen. This will cover all property types and will be credited in the July or August utilities bill, he said.
The move is to “thank all Singaporeans for doing our part in staying home for Singapore”, he said.
Mr Heng noted that the the Government announced in an earlier Budget that the amount of U-Save rebates will be double for all eligible HDB househols.
However, he said: “Singaporeans have given feedback that while they are saving on transport fares and other charges, they are expecting to spend more on their utility bills, as they stay home during the circuit breaker period.”
READ: 940,000 HDB households to get enhanced GST voucher rebate this month to offset utilities bills
During his speech, Mr Heng said that the National Trades Union Congress has received more than 60,000 applications under the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme.
“NTUC is working hard to process them. Applicants can expect to hear from NTUC within a month of submitting their application,” he said.
"Self-employed persons who do not automatically qualify or have marginally missed the criteria can approach NTUC," he said.
HELP FOR CHARITIES, SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES
The Government will also support charities and social service agencies, which are facing falling donations, Mr Heng said.
Charities can apply to receive dollar-for-dollar matching on eligible donations, which are raised from projects in FY2020, up to a cap of S$S250,000 per charity. This includes donations raised through approved digital platforms.
READ: COVID-19: Financial assistance schemes to help lower- to middle-income Singaporeans affected by outbreak
READ: Fortitude Budget: More than 40,000 jobs to be created as part of S$2B employment, training package
“To enable this, I will provide a top-up of S$100 million, to add to the existing S$70 million budget for the Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme," Mr Heng said.
He urged Singaporeans and residents here to donate generously if they are able to.
In the same vein, he said the Government will provide a top-up of S$18 million to the Invictus Fund, to enhance support for social service agencies.
The fund was earlier set up by the National Council of Social Service to provide additional support to social service agencies.
“This Fund will support our social service agencies to maintain service continuity, retain staff, and adopt technology to transform their work,” Mr Heng said.
HELPING STUDENTS AND SENIORS TO GO DIGITAL
Mr Heng also noted that digital inclusion should be an important way for Singapore to strengthen social resilience.
“Regardless of age or resources, all members of our society should have access to digital resources, with no one left behind. To this end, we will provide help for specific groups,” Mr Heng said, touching on students and seniors specifically.
To support students from lower-income families, who may not have digital access at home, the Ministry of Education loaned more than 22,000 computing devices and Internet dongles to enable all students to benefit from full home-based learning and continue to connect with their teachers and friends.
“As part of longer-term plans to support digital literacy for all students, MOE will accelerate the timeline for all secondary school students to own a digital learning device. The Minister for Education will announce details when ready,” Mr Heng said.
READ: Fortitude Budget: More than S$500m allocated to support digital transformation of businesses amid COVID-19 outbreak
He added that seniors, who are more vulnerable if infected, are staying home during this period, and many will have to continue doing so, to protect themselves from COVID-19, but that such isolation can affect their health.
The Silver Generation Office has been keeping in touch with seniors with care needs and weaker family support through telephone, and will continue to do so, he said.
To enable seniors to stay in contact with their families and friends, and for care teams and volunteers to reach out more effectively, the Infocomm Media Development Authority will launch a Seniors Go Digital movement to support seniors to adopt digital channels, and equip them with the digital skills to do so, he said.
The Government will launch a Digital Ambassadors movement, to rally the community and volunteers to support seniors to acquire digital skills.
“For seniors from lower-income households who wish to learn but are unable to afford the devices, we will also provide them with financial support. I strongly encourage our youths who have the digital skills, as well as corporates, to step forward to reach out,” he said.
The Minister for Communications and Information and IMDA will share more details later, Mr Heng said.
“This will require all-round support from family, friends, and the wider community,” he said.
Watch the full statement: